tips and gifts from dog walkers and pet sitters

How To Handle Tips & Gifts From Dog Walking & Pet Sitting Clients

What do you do when a dog walking or pet sitting client gives you a tip?  Or a holiday or "thank you" type gift?

​And what about if you have staff helping you?  Do they keep the tip/gift?  Or just part of it?  Here's how to handle these situations.

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The Solo Owner​

If you're a one-person business​, then this isn't too hard.  

As a solo operator, any tips and gifts go directly to you for your own benefit.  Woo hoo!

Although it may be courteous to politely turn down any extra compensation, ​if a client provides a tip/gift to you, accept it and acknowledge it.  No one leaves something extra unless they really want you to have it.  

I know of a pet sitter who always received gargantuan tips from one particular client.  They were A LOT!  She felt weird accepting them because they were so large.  But, don't feel bad about accepting something that you may feel is "too much" because it's obviously not too much to your client.  Their gift shows just how much they value your excellent service.

As I said above, "accept and acknowledge."  The "acknowledge" part is super important.  You definitely want your client to know that you received their tip/gift and appreciate it.

Often times they're going to leave any tips/gifts at the house so you'll see it when you arrive.  If that's the case, make sure to leave a note saying that you've received it and appreciate it.  This is a key opportunity to also add something about how much you like them and value them as a client.  

The Staff Manager

If you're a dog walker or pet sitter with staff, then the whole thing with tips and gifts gets a little more complicated.

With multiple staff, there's the issues of who keeps what and how much.

Who Gets What?  Typically in my business, we try to keep one staff member as the only walker/sitter for a client and their set of visits.  But, we all know that this is not possible 100% of the time, especially during the holidays when your staff members' schedules are so out of whack.

So, if you have 2 or more staff making visits to a particular client who likes to leave tips or gifts, how do you divide things up?  

It's going to get too crazy to try and divide a tip up by the exact proportions each staff member handled.  You definitely want to be fair, but if one person filled in for one visit and another person did nine visits, the person who did the nine gets 100% of the tip.  

I think anyone who deserves a tip needs to have made a significant time contribution to the visits.  Specifically, they should have done at least 25% of the visits to start being considered for any gratuity.  ​

If a client leaves you a gift card of some sort, there's not much you can do to split that up.  I'd say that the primary walker/sitter gets to keep that.

If a client leaves you some food, like cookies or popcorn, then you could always create a community pool of these items and distribute a portion to anyone who made a significant number of visits.  ​

For any staff members that aren't totally happy with how tips or gifts are divided, you can remind them that they have a holiday (or year end) bonus coming and that you'll remember their efforts during that time.  ​

How Much Does The Business Owner Keep? In my business, my staff keeps 100% of the tips and gifts that are left for them if they are making the visits.  Especially during the holidays when my staff is giving up precious time to be working, I'm fine with them keeping it all.

I do know of some business owners who keep up to 50% of any tips that are left for staff members.  

I don't know of any pet business owners who keep 100% of tips unless, of course, they are solo operators and making all the visits themselves.  

Acknowledge.  Like with being a solo operator, you always want to acknowledge any tips or gifts that are left for your staff.

We require all our staff to report anything that was left by a client.  We do this so we can keep track of gratuities and, most importantly, so we know who to write a note to or who make a phone call to so we can thank them for their generosity.

All your clients secretly want to know that their gift is appreciated, so make sure your staff tells you who left a tip or gift and how much or what it was.

How About You?​

How do you handle tips and gifts?  Do you distribute them to your staff?  Do you keep any part of it?  Let us know in the comments below.  Thanks!​

About the Author John Reh

John loves animals and business. He put the two together and built a multi-million dollar dog walking/running and pet sitting business with hard work, systems, and great people. He now teaches everything he's learned in the Pet Business Masters! community.

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